Heinrich: how a Burgenland winegrower became successful, then changed style
Gernot and Heike Heinrich were custodians of one of Austria’s most critically acclaimed wineries. With 100 hectares in Burgenland, they were turning out critic-friendly red blends that were big wines, with ripeness and oak and concentration.
Heinrich had converted to biodynamics in 2006, but it was in 2014 that they made the big style switch. Gernot Heinrich had become wealthy from selling his wine at decent prices, and had everything he needed, but he then decided to change his style completely. It looked like commercial suicide: why change a successful wine business?
Gernot was 50, and he was at the stage where he could now make the wines he wanted to. He began using grapes from these biodynamically farmed vineyards in a less-manipulated way, and into much purer expressions of site: wines with drinkability and precision.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing of course. One of the new house characteristics is some reduction in the wines; good reduction. The American importers failed to understand this in the 2016 Blaufrankisch, and he had to take the wine back. Had this been Roulot from Burgundy (wines that are understood and valued for their reductive style), I’m sure they wouldn’t have been rejected. And in the UK, their importer Liberty Wine dropped them. They are now with Indigo Wine.
There are three lines of wines. First of all, the ‘Naked’ series, which is from good vineyards, but meets a price point, and these are very successful. Then the varietal series, and at the top of the tree, the single vineyards.
Heinrich Naked Rosé 2019 Österreich (sample)
Unoaked Blaufrankisch, no added sulphites. Bright pink/orange colour. Bright and fruity with nice freshness. Has sweet strawberry and cherry fruit. Supple, drinkable and dry. 87/100 (JG)
Simple and approachable, with candied strawberries, cherry gummies and some sugared rhubarb tartness to counter. Chill and crack now. 86/100 (TR)
Heinrich Naked White 2017 Österreich
This is a white blend, with Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc dominant. First vintage, no added sulphites. This is nearly three years old and it’s still fresh, even without sulphites. Overnight skin contact. Full yellow in colour, this is lively, fruity and rounded with pear, table grape and spice notes. Very fruity with nice weight. 90/100 (JG)
Light and floral orange blossoms and anise fill a softer frame, finishing with a spicy, pithy orange note. Reminiscent of Muscat, which is surprising considering its Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc lead roles. Pleasant. 88/100 (TR)
Heinrich Chardonnay 2015 Leithaberg DAC
This is taken from east facing limestone and schist slopes of the Leithaberg (Leitha Mountains), with the main portions taken from the Spiegel, Kirchberg and Alter Berg vineyards in Winden, and the Fügler in Jois. Grapes also come from the Edelgraben and Zwergsbreiten sites in Breitenbrunn. This was native fermented with a few hours on the skins and stems before resting for 21 months on its lees in large oak casks and used 500L barrels prior to bottling unfined and unfiltered. Beautify concentrated, with kernel, dry popcorn, broken stones, pear skin, kisses of honeysuckle, lemon verbena and steel trailing the finish. There’s a smoked stone weaving throughout, adding gravitas without weight. This is best enjoyed over the course of an evening, allowing oxygen and temperature to relax this structural wine. Ceramic bottle. 90/100 (TR)
Heinrich Weisze Freyheit 2017 Österreich
No added sulphites. 97% Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) with 3% Moscatel Ottonel. Lovely reductive nose with matchstick and spice and minerals. This is spicy, mineral and intense on the palate. Lovely citrus, spice and pear, as well as some more exotic notes. 94/100 (JG)
Heinrich Graue Freyheit 2017 Österreich
In a pottery bottle, this is a blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc with 13 days skin contact, and then spends 17 months in large oak. A deep orange/copper colour, it’s quite a textured, harmonious wine with fine spiciness and pear and peach flavours, with a savoury framing. 93/100 (JG)
Pouring a deep golden hue reflective of 13 days skin contact, and 17 months on lees in large oak barrels. Apricot oil, peach, pear skin is carried with nervy zesty acidity, holding the medium-bodied palate taut and buzzing. Fantastic intensity packed into a slender frame. 92/100 (TR)
Heinrich Neuburger Freyheit 2016 Österreich
Freyheit means freedom, and signifies Heinrich’s natural range of wines. That is evident in the hazy pour of this unfiltered / unfined white (the bottle recommends to shake before pouring). This is entirely Neuburger, a crossing of Roter Veltliner and Sylvaner, from loamy, chalky, sandy soils of Mönchhof and the limestone soils of the Leithaberg. After native ferment, this matured in large oak casks for 21 months prior to bottling unfined and unfiltered. Pine nuts and earthy, with a smoked peaty note, tangerine, lemon verbena, dried nettle, subtle quince and yellow plum blossoms. There’s a whisper fine tug around the sides that refreshes the palate and keeps you wanting more. Reminiscent of Pinot Blanc, but with a welcome wild and cutting edge. Very interesting. 91/100 (TR)
Heinrich Pinot Noir 2018 Burgenland, Austria
Nice mineral reduction edge. Shows supple, bright red cherry fruit with herbs and spice, as well as the reductive notes. Very attractive juicy fruit style with a bit of complexity. 90/100 (JG)
Heinrich Blaufrankisch 2017 Burgenland, Austria
Nice supple, light style. Shows supple raspberry and cherry fruit with a supple character and nice brightness. Such lovely drinkability. 92/100 (JG)
Heinrich Leithaberg Blaufrankisch 2017 Burgenland, Austria
Very fine and supple. Fresh, pure red cherry fruit with some raspberry and nice acidity. Has grainy structure and nice purity. This is quite serious with elegance and finesse. 94/100 (JG)
Heinrich Ried Engelgraben Blaufrankisch 2015 Leithaberg, Burgenland
13.5% alcohol. Sealed with VinoLok. Green schist soils. 28 month elevage in used 500 litre barrels. Smoky, spicy, reductive nose with bright cherry fruit. The palate is bright and reductive with lovely precise cherry and raspberry fruit. Firm and fresh with nice weight. Fleshy but bright, showing elegance. Give this time: it’s still so reductive and primary, but I think it could age beautifully. 94/100 (JG)
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